Getting to Complete and Accurate Medication Lists During the Transition to Home Health Care

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2021 May;22(5):1003-1008. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2020.06.024. Epub 2020 Jul 25.


Objectives: Characterize the work that home health care (HHC) admission nurses complete as part of the medication reconciliation tasks, explore the impact of shared electronic medication data (interoperability) from the referral source on medication reconciliation, and highlight opportunities to enhance medication reconciliation with respect to transition in care to HHC agencies.

Design: Observational field study.

Settings and participants: Three diverse Pennsylvania HHC agencies; each used different electronic health record systems with different interoperability characteristics. Six nurses per site admitted 2 patients each (36 patients total).

Methods: Researchers observed the admission process in the patient home and at the HHC agency. The nurses' tasks related to medication reconciliation were characterized by (1) number and change types (ie, medications dropped or added; changes to dose, frequency/administration time, or tablet types) made to the referrer medication list during and after the home visit, and (2) reasons that the nurse called the health provider (doctor, pharmacy) to resolve medication-related issues. Differences between interoperable and non-interoperable observations were explored.

Results: Polypharmacy (on average, study patients were taking more than 12 medications) and high-risk medications (on average, more than 8 per patient) were pervasive. For 91% of patients, the number of medications decreased between pre- and post-reconciliation medication lists; 41% of the medications required changes. Nurses using interoperable systems needed to make fewer changes than nurses using non-interoperable systems. In two-thirds of observations, the nurse called a provider.

Conclusions and implications: Changes to the referrer medication list and calls to providers highlighted the nurses' effort to complete the medication reconciliation. Interoperability appeared to reduce the number of changes required, but did not eliminate changes or calls to providers. We highlight opportunities to enhance medication reconciliation with respect to transition in care to HHC agencies.

Keywords: Medication reconciliation; home healthcare agency; interoperability; nursing informatics; transition of care; workload.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Home Care Agencies*
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans
  • Medication Reconciliation
  • Pennsylvania
  • Polypharmacy